TEARDROP TRAILERS

The American Scooterist Magazine
Summer 99 - By David McCabe


The dream of building or buying a teardrop excited the pent-up wanderlust of many post-war Americans. Like the Vespa in Europe, the teardrop offered an affordable method for travel, giving a new class of people a sampling of the luxuries of middle class life.

Unfortunately the wave of popularity for teardrops petered out almost as quickly as it arrived. While the big initial wave of Vespa importation continued strong into the early 60s, the teardrop's heyday peeked around the mid-50s. People's appetite for ever-larger recreational vehicles grew. Why own a teardrop when your Buick could tow an Airstream? Today this growing appetite has become utter gluttony. Why even bother with a car, when you can tow an SUV behind your Winnebago? As Americans demanded bigger and improved amenities in their recreational vehicles, the modest, simple and practical teardrop was largely forgotten. Many teardrops today live ignoble lives rotting in backyards or serving as utility/trash hauling trailers.

But there's hope. Recently there has been a small but fervent revival of interest in teardrop trailers. Last year the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada opened up a camper section that included a temporary display of four original teardrops. These small trailers are becoming popular in the hot rod/custom car crowd as a way of making long distance trips to shows and races without compromising the style of the car. Many teardrops are custom painted to match custom cars. A hotrod with painted flames might get a flaming teardrop. There are "woody" teardrops built to be towed by old woody Ford station wagons. Small teardrop manufacturers have started home-garage-based businesses manufacturing trailers for this growing market.

Teardrop "gatherings" (think rallies) are beginning to take place with more frequency. The largest gathering is the Dam Gathering of Tears, which has met annually for the past five years at Lake Shasta in Northern California.

There is also an American Scooterist-type publication for teardrop trailers. This is Tales and Trails-the Teardrop Times. T&T is an informal 'zine-type publication printed in a newsletter format. It is painstakingly put together four times a year by Grant and Lisa Whipp. The amazing story of this newsletter is that only recently they had a teardrop enthusiast friend donate an old Mac computer with Quark Express to help them with layout. Grant and Lisa have just recently taken the big step and turned what they are doing into a club-type organization they call a "fellowship". Membership benefits are similar to the VCOA, four issues of T&T, membership directory, and a decal.





One recent T&T story featured Bennet Petersen, an original teardrop manufacturer (Benroy) from the 50s. Mr. Petersen was persuaded to attend last year's Dam Gathering. Mr. Peterson proved to be an invaluable missing link in the ongoing struggle of teardrop enthusiasts to piece together the lost history of teardrop trailers. The newsletter often contains photos of oddball teardrops. Underneath the photos' captions are appeals to readers to send in any information about the trailers.

The newsletter also contains the equivalent of rally reports, people writing in about gatherings. Unlike some scooter rallies though, this is a pretty genteel crowd, big pots of chili, camp fires, a very family-oriented atmosphere. There's also a great classifieds section devoted exclusively to buying and selling teardrops. Alas, the days are mostly gone where you can find a $200 junker teardrop. But collectors haven't completely ruined all of the fun for the rest of us yet.

I attended my first gathering here in Oregon. Even though it was relatively small and the weather was crummy, seeing these trailers in real life re-ignited my romance with these vehicles. It's kind of hard to get a good sense of their small scale and carefully thought-out design unless you see them in real life. Not only were they small and cute, but it was evident how incredibly practical they were. This to me brought home the big parallel between Vespas and teardrops. Both Vespas and teardrops were designed to be people's vehicles. They were affordable to buy and use. Both were designed with simplicity and utility in mind as well as beauty. Given time, it was all of these characteristics together that made them both classics.

I want a teardrop. My "dream configuration" for going to rallies would be to use my compact truck for my scooters and tow a teardrop for camping on the road. If you happen to have an old teardrop that you're looking to get rid of, please let me know.

Here's some contact info: Tales and Trails, The Teardrop Times, 12442 Maria Drive, Redding CA 96003. Yearly membership fee is $30 for the first year, $25 thereafter, $15 if you just want to subscribe. T&T's web page: www.teardrops.net. Another long-time web site devoted to teardrops is www.wilddog.com Thanks to Grant and Lisa Whipp, Jim Mangan, and Mike Mooney for helpful information and assistance.
-David McCabe



Note From Desertteardrops.com:
Another HOTSPOT is the TD Forum:
http://www.desertteardrops.com/bbs/



Thanks to:
Michael McWilliams
Vespa Club of America President
www.vespaclubusa.org